Healthy earnings at Vital property trust

Last updated 05:00 15/08/2014

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Investing in Australia's private medical market is paying off for trans-Tasman healthcare real estate fund Vital Healthcare Property Trust.

The trust, which owns 25 hospital or medical properties in Australasia, has booked a 7.8 per cent lift in full-year net profit at $37.4 million for the year to June.

Net distributable income rose 23 per cent to $34.7m or 10.4c per unit, up one cent.

Chief executive David Carr said the drivers were its exposure to Australia, where half the population had private medical insurance, and the completion of four brownfield sites, mostly hospital extensions.

"The yields we're receiving on those projects are attractive . . . That's starting to drive the growth in revenues through the business."

Carr said 2014 had been a bit of a consolidation year after spending $100m on brownfield development since the trust enlarged its Australian portfolio in 2010.

It bought no properties during the year, but did spend A$13.5m on a psychiatric hospital in west Australia after balance date.

"In our space, hospital and medical assets don't come to market that often," Carr said.

The trust would spend another $50m over the next year as it set out to capitalise on Australian's growing and ageing population.

In New Zealand, where it has five medical properties, Vital's income was stable. Only about 30 per cent of New Zealanders have medical insurance, which creates less work at private hospitals. However, the trust did secure a new 30-year lease with the operator of Auckland's Mercy Ascot hospital.

Currency and a big looming lease expiry were the trust's main headwinds in the year ahead.

Vital had a fair amount of natural and other hedging in place, and ‘'in my view we are managing that volatility", Carr said.

His other key focus was the lease on the trust's Allamanda Hospital facility on the Gold Coast, which provides 10 per cent of the trust's income.

The lease expires in three years, but the trust would not be sitting back and waiting for that to occur, Carr said.

Generally, he said, he struggled to see any material shift in the sector's outlook.

"We see real estate as being defensive and healthcare as being another leg up in that defensive asset class, ultimately producing relative stable yields, which are what the majority of REITs [investors in real estate investment trusts] are looking for."

Vital's investors will receive a full year cash distribution per unit of 7.9 cents and are forecast to receive 8.0 cents per unit in 2015.

Its shares rose 0.3 per cent to $1.405 in mid-afternoon trading. Fairfax NZ

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